Posted 8 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022

Ryan Sands, a 2015 UWL graduate, says the new partnership of his alma mater with his employer J.F. Brennan Company will help students receive specific skills making them job-ready. “This should build networking with local employers and provide training on potential career fields for future students,” says Sands.

UWL, Brennan agreement strengthens college experience

The J.F. Brennan Company is partnering with UWL to strengthen research, curriculum and the company's talent pipeline. 

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed Tuesday, Oct. 18, will get students on the Mississippi River to use technology they’ll find when they head into the workforce — and give them an opportunity to experience what it’s like to work for a company like Brennan. 

“Our business, like any business, is fundamentally based on the ability to recruit, train and retain good people,” says Matt Binsfeld, president and CEO of J.F. Brennan Company. “It’s going to be a great opportunity to get the technology that we use into the hands of students.” 

Binsfeld says the new public-private partnership was based on the query of how to expand a student’s growth even more through experiential learning outside the classroom. 

“We looked at how we could work more closely with UWL and the River Studies Center to provide the experiential learning opportunities for young people, so that they’re not only getting the high-value and first-class in classroom experience, but they’re taking that and they’re putting that together with these opportunities to do actually what we do as an organization,” says Binsfeld.  

Roger Haro, associate dean in the UWL College of Science and Health, says students will benefit because they will experience a real-world situation.  

“They see how people engaged in these large projects have to be focused on effective communication, not just the technical skills in terms of running the instrumentation,” explains Haro. “But basically, how does one set those instruments up so that the job is effective, and the data is collected? They're working with people who have to problem solve all the time, every day and in the work.” 

The partnership between UWL and Brennan was expanded through the initiative of Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust and the UWL College of Science and Health, with the assistance of the La Crosse Community Foundation. Earlier this year, it was announced that Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust gave the La Crosse Community Foundation $430,000 to fund construction of a new research vessel for UWL’s River Studies Center. Brennan will provide maintenance support, a storage location and instrumentation expertise for the new vessel.   

For many years, Brennan has opened its doors to UWL students for paid internships. In return, the company has been able to recruit many of those interns as reliable, full-time employees. The MOU is expected to further expand the partnership to provide even more job-ready employees.  

Haro says the new agreement sets a more formal and growing opportunity for UWL to work with a leading regional business partner. He expects the arrangement to spark more opportunities with Brennan and other companies and organizations.  

“Moving forward, partnerships like this will become even more important for us to expand the university’s impact in helping to grow the state’s economy,” Haro says.  

Learn more about the unique partnership between UWL and Brennan.